Gaming has always had a close relationship with the occult. This is obvious for anyone who has followed our many features on horror, mysticism, and Gnosticism in different media. While occultism in movies and traditional literature allows viewers to peek into other worlds, occultism in gaming thrusts players into these worlds head-on.
Britain has a new Iron Maiden to worship in 2019. 34-year-old Olivia “Liv” Boeree has become one of the most popular faces in the world of poker. For well over a decade, this softly-spoken Briton from Kent has been cleaning up at the poker tables, after being coached by top professionals such as Phil Hellmuth and Dave “Devilfish” Ulliot. With a First-Class Honours degree in Physics with Astrophysics, Boeree is a smart cookie.
In the moment when video games became academically visible, game studies had its eyes gouged out, again and again. ‘The pleasures of video game play are not principally visual, but rather are kinaesthetic’, wrote James Newman (2002) while Espen Aarseth (2004: 52) warned of a ‘problematic visualism’ that threatened to render invisible the formal properties of games, their rules and mechanics. It was film theorists, Aarseth (2004: 48) notoriously claimed, that had ‘analysed’ Lara Croft ‘to death’. Even game designers warned of the danger of graphical eye-candy, cosmetics, and window-dressing. The ‘video’ of video games, the ‘I see’ that modifies games, was feminised and disavowed in the (masculine, in this case) birth of game studies. Yet, horror games constantly reanimate the revenant of ‘video’, returning it to the side of ‘games’, often by turning vision into a game mechanic itself and by leveraging the aesthetic technique known as horror vacui.
It was 2010 when a game titled Deadly Premonition, developed by Access Games Inc. (a Japanese video game developer based in Osaka, Japan, founded on January 16th, 2002), was launched for the Xbox 360. I first read an article about it by consummate chance. The article apprised Deadly Premonition as a survival horror game with zombies but also highlighted a police thriller type of plot peppered with surreal elements, somehow very similar to the one seen on the TV Series ‘Twin Peaks.’
It was 1980 when Sean Sexton Cunningham took the world by storm by producing and directing a movie which would become a timeless classic, ‘Friday the 13th,’ a sixty million dollar success, the first installment of a franchise which would have eleven movies and one spin-off and while critics were not so kind to Jason Voorhees, fans loved him and went on to become a horror icon.
I would settle down to an evening exploring a new mission and determining the best course to get in and out of the mission as a silent assassin, taking my targets out like a phantom. My favourite missions so far are Sapienza, where you target two scientists working on a weaponized virus in a secret underground facility. One of the scientists is a man edging closer off a psychological cliff, who grieves for his dead beloved mother, and is maniacally careful about his spaghetti sauce. The other is a woman that is angling to replace the other scientist due to his unstable psychological state but also favours an affair with an Italian golf instructor. The two targets are throughout the grounds of a beautiful Italian villa spanning a wide area with many different yards and floors to traverse, discover hidden clues and tactics, and to plan your attack. Additionally, underneath this villa, is the heavily guarded and patrolled lab where you must figure out how to destroy the virus specimen without being detected.